Darude’s 6 golden rules for producers

Right now, the man responsible for dance music’s best loved meme is back on Australian soil. Darude – the Finnish mainstay whose 20 year career includes a little tune called Sandstorm – is currently making his way around the country for a busy club tour that’s still yet to hit Sydney, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Perth and more.

While it’s a pretty safe bet that Sandstorm will pop up at some point in Darude’s sets, it’s not all producer Ville Virtanen has in his record bag. Darude released his fourth studio album Moments last year, spawning the single Beautiful Alien, and also has classic cuts like Feel The Beat and Out Of Control to his name. Which is to say the man knows his way around a studio – so if you’re looking to craft your own viral hit, read on and learn the tricks of the trade with Darude’s six golden rules for producers.

#1 Learn from your favourites

Pick a few tracks from your genre of choice that you think are great. Analyse them – either in your head or on paper, or put them in your DAW and slice them to parts, like ’intro’, ’breakdown’, ’build up’, ’drop’, whatever describes what’s happening the best for you.

Pay attention to what happens where: where the extra percussion comes in, how the build up is made, what elements the drops have, and then apply what you have learned to your own productions. This means arrangement and production wise, vibe wise, general sound wise – not copying anything musically, of course.

#2 Keep it clean

Low cut every track to remove unneeded frequencies. Do this soloed first: cut until the sound is getting too thin, then listen in context and find the frequency where you don’t notice the low end is cut, but you get the benefit of the rumble being gone and the sound using less headroom in your mix. After cutting stuff out you might be able to (or need to) make the sound a decibels or few louder to counteract the cut.

#3 Pay attention to EQs

I use at least two EQs on every channel. One for broad changes, like high and/or low shelves and round low Q bumps or notches to make big tonal adjustments, and one for pinpointed removing of nasty ringing, or for harmonics that are too strong. For me it’s easier to think of those two things separately – it also means you get a less confusing overview not having all the tweaks in one plugin UI.

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#4 Show sidechains some love

Sidechain ducking doesn’t only have to be for the audible ’pumping’ or ’sucking’ effect, but it’s also a very useful tool for actual sound mixing and space-making. Ducking sounds just a few decibels to make a little more decibels of headroom for the kick, you don’t necessarily hear it at all as Benny Benassi Satisfaction-esque pumping, because the big kick masks the lack of what’s under it.

Also, sounds where you’d otherwise traditionally just use low shelf or low cut EQ to make room, you can get away with a” thicker”, say, lead sound, not low cutting the whole sound that much, but using a multiband compressor like Waves C6 or currently my favourite, VolumeShaper. So you’ll make the low end duck all the way and everything above your specific frequency not duck at all, or only, say, 25% of what the low end is doing. That will make you have a thick and loud lead without audibly pumping much at all, yet leaving more room for the kick in the mix.

#5 Know your weaknesses 

Learn to be brutally honest to yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses. If you’re a great producer and a sound designer, but your lyrical output is not the best, that’s no problem. Just hook up with someone who lacks in your expertise and is a brilliant writer and you’ll be a match made in heaven. You’re better together than you’d ever be alone.

#6 Show sidechains some love, part two

Two-in-one sidechain compression tip: use the dry vocal to trigger a couple of decibels of sidechain ducking of the vocal send delay and reverb bus for cleaner mix. The dry vocals will not be smudged by the delay and reverb, but the delay and reverb come up when the vocal ends and give the vocal space and tail.

Use your big lead sound to trigger a multiband comp to duck the range where the lead cuts through best on a pad/other competing synth channel, say a couple of decibels between 1000-2500Hz. The lead will be more on top of the other synths, but the listener won’t really notice.

Darude 2016 Australian tour

September 15 – Victory Hotel, Brisbane
September 16 – Home Nightclub, Sydney
September 17 – HQ Complex, Adelaide
September 22 – The Helm, Sunshine Coast
September 23 – Platinum, Gold Coat
September 24 – Metro City, Perth